Modern aircraft flyaway costs

Modern aircraft flyaway costs


Air superiority fighters:

Aircraft Weight (kg) Unit flyaway cost FY13 USD per kg
F-22 19.700 kg 273 million USD 13 858
F-35C 15.800 kg 236 million USD 14 937
F-35B 14.700 kg 292 million USD 19 864
F-35A 13.300 kg 184 million USD 13 835
F-15C 12.700 kg 126 million USD 9 921
F-15A 12.428 kg 43 million USD 3 460
EF2000 T2 11.285 kg 138 million USD 12 229
Rafale M 10.196 kg 83 million USD 8 140
Rafale C 9.550 kg 75 million USD 7 853
F-16C 8.573 kg 70 million USD 8 165
F-16A 7.076 kg 30 million USD 4 240
Gripen E 7.000 kg 85 million USD 12 143
Gripen C 6.800 kg 44 million USD 6 470
Harrier II Plus 6.340 kg 50 million USD 7 886
Gripen A 6.600 kg 36 million USD 5 455

(Note: neither Rafale or Gripen prices include VAT; with VAT, costs are 100 million USD Rafale M, 90 million USD Rafale C, 100 million USD Gripen E, 53 million USD Gripen C, 43 million USD Gripen A)

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As it can be seen from both table and graphs, cost roughly follows weight despite wildly varying cost-per-kg figures. Stealth aircraft are also more expensive in both total price and cost per kg than non-stealth aircraft; no aircraft on the list comes close to stealth aircraft in former, and only few come close in latter measure. Modern non-stealth aircraft are not much more expensive per kg than older aircraft, only exception being multinational Eurofighter Typhoon and Gripen NG, both of which break 10.000 USD mark. It should be noted that all fighter aircraft weighting less than 8 metric tons cost around 4.000 USD per kg, exceptions being STOVL Harrier II and technology-heavy Gripen E.

CAS fighters and helicopters:

Aircraft Weight (kg) Unit flyaway cost FY13 USD per kg
A-10 11.320 kg 16 million USD 1 413
AH-64 5.662 kg 33 million USD 5 828

Here it can be seen that A-10 is far cheaper than AH-64 despite being heavier and better protected.

Force presence

Air superiority fighters:

Aircraft Unit flyaway cost Aircraft for 1 bln Sorties/day/aircr Sorties/day/1bln
F-22 273 million USD 3 0,5 1,5
F-35C 236 million USD 4 0,5 2
F-35B 292 million USD 3 0,5 (?) 1,5
F-35A 184 million USD 5 0,5 2,5
F-15C 126 million USD 7 1 7
F-15A 43 million USD 23 1 23
EF2000 T2 138 million USD 7 2 14
Rafale M 83 million USD 12 2 24
Rafale C 75 million USD 13 2 26
F-16C 70 million USD 14 1,2 16,8
F-16A 30 million USD 33 1,2 39,6
Gripen E 85 million USD 11 2 22
Gripen C 33 million USD 30 2 60
Harrier II Plus 50 million USD 20 1,2 24
Gripen A 25 million USD 40 2 80

Further reading:

Actual F-35 unit cost


14 thoughts on “Modern aircraft flyaway costs

  1. Actually things may be alot worse for the F-35 for sortie ratio’s then you even state.

    “The Air Force wanted the F-35As at Eglin AFB to be available for training missions 33 percent of the time: the equivalent of each aircraft flying one sortie every three days. (pp. 29, 30) By late 2012 this very modest minimum was basically being achieved (p. 29), but certain aircraft at various times during the OUE flew as seldom as one sortie every 7 to 10 days. (pp. 30, 31)”

    So it is looking even worse than ever, and if they can’t fly this late in the development program and years behind schedule it puts a big question mark.

    Sortie ratio could be as low as .3 or so… And this is for training and not actual combat missions, which very well might make even this low sortie rate that much lower.

    If you don’t mind me asking were do you find stats for sortie ratio’s on the above aircraft, and have you ever seen a documented stat for the su-35?

    Good article by the way.


    1. Technically, F-35 is still in development so I decided to give F-35 a benefit of doubt and so used the F-22 sortie rate. But in reality, 1 sortie every 3 days is unlikely to improve, as F-35 is far more complex than F-22 is.

      I can’t remember exactly where I have found sortie rates for all aircraft listed, but what I do remember is that F-15s 1 sorties per day per aircraft and F-16s 1,2 s/d/a come from Second Gulf War, and that during operations in Libya Typhoons flew two sorties per day per aircraft. This matches very well with numbers I have for maintenance downtime for these aircraft, so sortie rates for most other aircraft are calculated through that – all three Eurocanards seem to have similar maintenance downtime, for example.


  2. At 4 million each back in the 1980’s and now $11 million for a brand new su-25sm model, it has to be the leader in price and sortie ratio’s.

    Iran–Iraq War

    “The Su-25 also saw combat during the Iran–Iraq War of 1980–1988. The first Su-25s were commissioned by the Iraqi Air Force in 1987 and performed approximately 900 combat sorties throughout the course of the war, carrying out the bulk of Iraqi air attack missions. During the most intense combat of the war, Iraqi Su-25s were performing up to fifteen sorties per day each. In one recorded incident, an Iraqi Su-25 was shot down by an Iranian Hawk surface-to-air missile, but the pilot managed to eject. This was the only confirmed successful Iranian attack against an Iraqi Su-25. After the war, Saddam Hussein decorated all of the Iraqi Air Force’s Su-25 pilots with the country’s highest military decoration”

    I wonder what the sortie ratio is for the A-10c, or 3 of sorties per day?


  3. Hi Picard.
    Rafale is one of your favorite jet fighter isn’t it? 😉

    I Will never blame you of such an opinion.


    1. Yes, it is. It’s currently a tie between Rafale C and Gripen C for the first place. YF-16 would have been a third option, but it is only a prototype, and F-16A introduced quite few changes which I don’t like.


  4. I can see that f-35 and also f-22 would cost alot and be more maintenance due to ram coatings and more high tech cutting edge electronics and the push to get that last 10% of performance out of the design.

    In my research though I cannot see why the European designs would be less maintenance than the American designs. Some of the electronics are the same in each planes even.. Plus an f-15a does not have that much high tech electronics compared to Rafael or euro-fighter since it is an older design…

    Just that to get twice the sortie ratio with the same type of aircraft even if they have sometimes similar electronics even…

    Plus an eurofighter or rafael also have similar level of sophistication and amount of electronics as the American designs.

    I just wondering how you come up with this calculation and reasoning Picard.

    I do believe though my research that rafael, su-35 and euro-fighter are about the best of the 4.5 gen fighters out there performance wise, they are also the newest designs as well.


    1. Rafale and especially Gripen are designed with easy maintenance in mind – but keep in mind that this is just base-level maintenance; for example, Rafale’s engines are made from modules, and to fix an engine you just identify where the problem is, put in the new module and send malfunctioning module home for repairs. So fighter is quickly back in the air, but it adds to a logistics tail. Gripen OTOH is very easy to repair on any level. As for US fighters, F-5 could manage 3 sorties per day per aircraft, more than any fighter on the list, but it is quite simple design.


  5. It is from the gulf war and libya war ratio’s?

    I guess perhaps France had newer jets that are in better shape, and also knew if was a shorter war so they could have a higher ratio of sorties for a shorter amount of time. Were in the gulf war American planes average age might have been older and thus more prone to more maintenance.

    Also since the gulf war was a more high intensity war and did not know how long it would last so during that conflict they were more conservative and careful to have less sortie ratio’s for the first month in order to have a higher military preparedness in case the war went wrong and lasted a long time, were in Libya you did not have to worry about that as much so you could go all out from the beginning as Libya did not have much anyways as an air-force or ground forces to counter attack…

    I just trying to think things through and reason things out.


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